Saturday, January 14, 2017

Cuba’s Raul Castro meets with U.S. Chamber of Commerce president

Cuba's Raul Castro meets with U.S. Chamber of Commerce president
By Marc Frank

The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce met with Cuban President Raul
Castro and in separate meetings with members of Castro's economic
cabinet on Friday, as they prepare for the advent of a more hostile
Trump administration next week.

The chamber has been urging the Cuban government to sign a number of
agreements with major companies such as General Electric (GE.N),
negotiated over the last 18 months, before President-elect Donald Trump
takes office on Jan. 20.

A brief government statement said chamber President Thomas Donohue and
Castro discussed "issues of mutual interest."

"The goal of the U.S. business community has shifted from seeking more
from Cuba to preserving what exists from the soon-to-be Trump
administration," John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and
Economic Council, said.

"‎U.S. companies need the Cuban government to quickly and substantially
expand its purchases of products and services and permit a highly
visible presence of companies," he said.

Donohue was accompanied by Maurice Greenberg, chairman and chief
executive officer of C.V. Starr & Co Inc, a major U.S. insurance company.

The chamber has opposed the U.S. trade embargo for decades and is a
strong supporter of the normalization process begun by President Barack

That process has included the signing of 17 agreements between the two
former Cold War foes and the use of executive orders to punch holes in
the embargo, which can be lifted only by the U.S. Congress, now
controlled by Republicans.

Travel to the Communist-run Caribbean island from the United States has
increased, with the start of direct flights and cruises and roaming
agreements signed, but there have been no manufacturing or trade deals

Cuba and the Obama administration have been scrambling to deepen and
cement their detente, through bilateral agreements and commercial links,
since Trump's election in November.

Cuba agreed earlier this month to export charcoal to the United States,
the first export in half a century, and in December Google (GOOGL.O)
reached an agreement to place servers on the island to quicken access to
its products.

Trump has said he will dismantle the still-fragile detente unless Cuba
gives the United States a better deal, while providing no specifics.

Trump is expected to review Cuba policy upon taking office and has named
Jason Greenblatt, a Trump Organization executive and chief legal
counsel, as negotiator for sensitive international issues, including Cuba.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Source: Cuba's Raul Castro meets with U.S. Chamber of Commerce president

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